“Money is a major source of stress on people, and what tax season does is shine a great big spotlight on the issue.”
-Michael McKee, Clinic psychologist, president of
U.S. International Stress Management Association
I’m not even going to say what time of year it is. You know. I know. He, she or it knows. If you’re like me you are in the hunter-gatherer phase of tax preparation; You’ve downloaded your list, checked off the stuff you found in the box/bag/pile in which you were so good at tossing tax-related papers for the first six months of 2011 and now have waded into the final scavenger hunt of documentation.
Next comes the actual doing of the taxes, unless you are one of the many who have them prepared. USA Today said that people who have their taxes done are in the majority, but that the number of people doing their own taxes is rising.
That also means tax related stress is rising. Therefore, I offer another tax preparation list; a Personal Health Tax Preparation List. Feel free to peruse the buffet of items and interventions, gather them like your IRA statements and child care receipts, and have them at the ready when you sit down to crunch your data. Be prepared to do the impossible: make Tax Time a more pleasant experience.
“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.”
-Dr. Carl G. Jung
Eating The Elephant: If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the undertaking try to prepare in short (one hour or less depending on stress level) increments with small, achievable goals. Meet the goal and directly after have a reward waiting for yourself.
A Stitch in Time Saves You From Killing the Family: Rather than scrambling like mad trying to remember where you put that Energy Star Dryer receipt, keep a box for anything you know you want to deduct throughout the year, then, when the tax season hits, you can already feel prepared.
See the Sanity You Want to be: Visually representing the entire process from preparation to printing your finished returns will help instill a feeling of mastery even before you begin, help you see the holes before you step in them and provide a way to note your progress by checking things off. Any type of a schedule, chart or calendar will do.
“We are very complex. There is more than just physical aspect to our health.
(Healing) is also emotional, mental and spiritual.”
-Dr. Lorie DeCarvalho
No More Tax Trauma: Calming music, aromatherapy candles or incense have been shown to lower stress. When I was a crass young man I laughed at this “New Agey Stuff.” Now I’m a crass young man who works with some of the most gifted trauma therapists I have the pleasure of knowing. Calming music and scents are a great way of soothing a setting for a therapy session. Why not do it at tax time?
I’ll Never Make it; Save Yourself! If you’re a person who sees doing the taxes as going “into the breach” never to return again; Reviewing last year’s return, if you received a tax return, is a great way to affirm last years’ success and remind yourself of the, hopefully, big cash reward at the end. Perhaps tape it to your desk to remind you as you work.
Back off Man, I’m a Scientist: Remember the chart of things you can check off, or doing the taxes in small portions? Well, we should be rewarded by something after those milestones. Why not chocolate? Scientists say that a solid—yes, small—piece of dark chocolate is packed with great stuff to help you keep going while it pleases in the moment.
“A healthy body is the best container for a healthy mind.
A healthy heart is the temple of God.”
-Guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Help, I’m Turning Into a Slug: You sit down to do the taxes, just like every year. You’re still sitting there five hours later, just like every year. You fear that you may need to go back and redo the section on being handicapped since you lost feeling in your lower limbs hours ago. Why? A 10 to 15 minute aerobic routine can act as a reward, get the mind and body flowing again and get you the heck away from the taxes for a short time.
(Not) Light as a Feather, Stiff as a ‘Borg: Taxes lead to stress, stress leads to tension, and tension leads to the Dark Side. Thus, you end up going “Whuup-perh” at your computer, just like Darth Vader, stiff as a cyborg. Instead, get a massage. Really. The good people at Hydromassage are offering free hydromassages at their stores nationwide from now until April 16th. Another option is using a massage chair. They lay right over regular chairs and have all sorts of features. You can get a great one for $70-$150. Spend part of that tax return early and be massaged through the whole process.
Yo, go: Can’t make yourself stop doing the taxes to do cardio? Massage too passive for you? Set a deadline for each tax-doing segment by signing up for a yoga class, then working until you need to get ready to leave the house. It’s an in-built reward, timer, recharger and relaxer all in one.
A Tip for the Pros
There is one tip which works for your mind, heart and body at the same time. It’s a tip for my pros out there, no matter if you’re a professional personal tax doer or a procrastinator.
On Your Marks, Get Set: If you haven’t started your tax return, start now. You will solve nothing by worry, fear, dread or postponement. But, you can take some of these tips and feel better the moment you get the process going. Make a chart, start filling your document box, go make an appointment for a massage, a yoga class or go buy some dark chocolate.
Tax time is rarely fun, but some of these preparations will make it more enjoyable and nothing is more fun than saying, “My taxes? Oh, they’re done.”